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Esteban Felix, Associated Press
FILE - This Dec. 11, 2011 file photo, shows Panama's former strongman Manuel Noriega gesturing while being carried in a wheelchair by a police officer inside El Renacer prison, on the outskirts of Panama City. A police statement issued Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012 says Noriega was taken from the El Renacer prison to Santo Tomas hospital after he had high blood pressure and apparently a brain hemorrhage. Noriega returned to Panama on Dec. 11 and is serving three 20-year sentences for the killings of political opponents in the 1980s.

PANAMA CITY — Doctors in Panama say former dictator Manuel Noriega is "stable" after being hospitalized for extreme hypertension.

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Health Minister Franklin Vergara says Noriega is "conscious and well oriented," and will be kept for 48 hours for observation at Panama City's public Santo Tomas hospital.

Vergara said in a statement Monday that officials plan to return Noriega to the El Renacer prison after the observation period.

Noriega was toppled by a 1989 U.S. invasion and served a drug sentence in a U.S. prison.

He was returned on Dec. 11 from France to serve a combined 60-year Panamanian prison sentence for murder, embezzlement and corruption.

The 77-year-old Noriega was transferred from prison to a hospital on Sunday.